Asheville is the County Seat of Buncombe County, North Carolina, it sits among the mountains where the Great Smokies and the Blue Ridge meet, at 2,340 feet above sea level. Average temperatures range from 66.6 (high) to 43.9 (low)

Asheville is recognized as one of the southeast's most popular recreation centers, offering rafting, hiking, climbing, fishing, and mountain biking.
In the Asheville area there is the NC Arboretum, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Pisgah Forest, which offer all kinds of outdoors enjoyment.

The city of Asheville was incorporated in 1797 due to its proximity to the French Broad River. Sites to see in Asheville included the Biltmore Estate (gardens, winery, landscaped grounds, as well as the enormous house), downtown Asheville (all types of diverse entertainment), and Riverside Cemetary (in historic Montoford District, authors O'Henry and and Thomas Wolfe are both buried here).

Downtown Asheville offers an entertainment atmosphere that can be found nowhere else in the southeast, whith antique stores, bookstores, art galleries, boutiques, record shops, a discount computer place, a wide spectrum of restaurants and cafes, coffee shops, and local music venues.

Asheville is a typical mid-sized Southern city still trying to figure out what it wants to be. Thirty years ago it was still a kind of sleepy town, probably best known as the place Thomas Wolfe was from and wrote about. Today it's torn between people who want it to grow and people who are afraid of the change that growth brings.

It's an interesting place to be. The most common thing on the radio dial is still country music, but you can also take in the local symphony. Thanks to a temperate four-seasons climate and a thriving local health care industry, the Asheville area has become a popular retirement spot. It has become a fairly cosmopolitan city despite the continued presence of Southern Baptist influences (not to mention lots of smaller churches that make the Southern Baptists look cosmopolitan) on the local culture. When I was growing up near there, Buncombe County (of which Asheville is the county seat) was notable because it was a "wet" county and most of the surrounding counties were "dry" (for those unfamilar with the terms, a "dry county" is one in which no alcoholic beverages can be sold).

The Mountain Youth Jamboree, a local music festival held in Asheville, is widely famous in folk music circles. It also features the Thomas Wolfe museum and the Catholic church of St. Lawrence, a basilica with a copper domed roof. There are only two known churches built in this style, both designed by the same architect.

Several years ago, the Cherokee tribe opened a casino on their reservation about 40 miles west of Asheville; the biggest change this has made in the area is a significant increase in the number of pawn shops and check cashing stores.

Where to Get Coffee in Asheville

Perhaps my favorite thing about living in Asheville is the coffee. If you ever come here, I would strongly encourage you not to drink coffee at Starbucks. You'll get to see all the crazy people who live here, you'll be helping the local economy, and the baristas all really know their shit.

The places listed here are not the only ones in Asheville, just all the ones downtown. They're all locally owned, and most of them serve fair trade or organic coffee. I visit each one on a regular basis and they're definately worth your time if you're ever in the area.

Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe

Location: Haywood Street, next to the Library
The Once-over: This is where respectable people generally go for coffee. The coffee is served in attractive, bright-colored mugs. The staff tend to be friendly, squeaky-clean college students and there's always someone sitting by the window, working on the best-selling novel that will make him so famous he'll never have to work again.
Price of a single cup of house coffee: $2.50. You get one free refill.
Nibbles: Nothing you'd write home about. Choices tend to be things like stale cinnamon buns, vegan muffins, and cookies. You can get a decent slice of quiche, too, and the staff are always happy to heat things up in the microwave before serving them to you.
Great because: You get to choose between at least five different varieties of coffee, ranging from a typical French Roast to fancy flavors like Butternut, if that's your thing. There's a counter by the front window so you can watch the world go by, which is an essential feature of a good coffee place. They have computers, too, but you have to pay extra for that.
The Downside: It's usually hard to find a seat. And $2.50 for a cup of coffee?

Bonnie's Little Corner

Location: On the corner accross from the Vance Memorial (the great big obelisk that marks the center of town).
The Once-over: This is actually a tobacco shop that sells coffee on the side. The tobacco here is good, the man behind the counter is friendly and knows his business, and I have never once been carded.
Price of a single cup of house coffee: $1.50
Nibbles: None, unless they're selling snack crackers.
Great because: They let you smoke. This is really its only virtue as a coffee place.
The Downside: The coffee is weak, so I usually get the hot chocolate instead. Crazy people like to come here off the street to panhandle, and they will try to talk to you. You can always foist them on the nice man behind the counter. He's used to them.

Old Europe

Location: Battery Park Avenue
The Once-over: Dark, broody, and quite fancy. They serve coffee in an ornate white teacup on a saucer with a doily. The people who frequent his place tend to be well-dressed and in their late twenties/early thirties. It probably gets a fair number of tourists, too, as Battery Park Avenue is cram-full of the sort of shops tourists like. You know, the ones that sell fake bohemian jewlery and handcrafted yard ornaments at ridiculous prices.
Price of a single cup of house coffee: $1.40 for a small, $1.87 for a large
Nibbles: Sumptuous confections like cheesecake and rasperry torte that cost more than the coffee itself. Great if you're feeling a little wealthy and like to eat sweet things with your coffee.
Great because: It makes you feel like you're sitting in a cafe in 19th century France.
The Downside: The food is really very rich, in every sense of the word. This is not the place to come if you're looking for a croissant or a muffin.

Izzy's Coffee Den

Location: Lexington Avenue, just past all the head shops
The Once-over: A cozy little hole in the wall with squashy armchairs and free reading material. Lots of racy abstract art. Coffee is served in slick black mugs. Preferred by freaks, punks, anarchists, and all five of the goths who live in Asheville.
Price of a single cup of house coffee: At $1.25, it's the cheapest coffee I've found in downtown Asheville. Refills are fifty cents.
Nibbles: Your typical muffin and coffee cake fare. They also make a mean bagel sandwich.
Great because: It's cozy. The coffee is both cheap and delicious. It's a prime place for people-watching and eavesdropping. You can usually find a tossed-off newspaper if you're too poor to buy one.
The Downside: Most people I know are scared off by the clientele, and the people behind the counter can get cranky. Wear a black hooded sweatshirt if you don't want to stand out, but I've seen old men and sweet old ladies come in without fear.

There are a couple more that I need to investigate further; I'll add them as soon as I can.

...clouds like cotton ball candy, thick and warm and pink, thrown into the sky but falling sideways. It's easy to imagine that they taste sweet - like those little kids' vitamins that are shaped like, but never to the scale of, actual dinosaurs.

That's one of the best things about them - imagining that something so big can be grasped and defined by you. So here and there you employ a star or three to become the bright little punctuation marks that turn the soft pink sentences into a huge fantastic floating poem, which only you could have written.

Yet finally, there is the soft shock of a warm breeze that rolls up and around and through everything towards you - a lover with a foreign dictionary encroaching your position, perhaps - inspiring all the trees to applaud a you that you've never considered.

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